“For some reason Halloween was a big holiday for us. Halloween was party time. You drank until you fell. The ambassador was long gone and last Captain Jim (Jimmy) and Mr. X (me) remember was downing whiskeys at the OEC Club. Waking up out our stupor we were in a very unfamiliar place.
Worse our boots were gone and walking around in Khaki army socks was no pleasure. We had to get off the rocky road and into a town and then find the base. We didn’t have a compass with us and I have a notorious bad sense of direction. After lots of aimless walking when suddenly we see some 2 or 3 story buildings in the distance. Hopefully that is Seoul.
As we approached in what seemed like an eternity, we saw a shocking site. Flags are draped from the window. Not just flags, but RED flags. My God we must have wondered into North Korea. As we were now completely sober, we knew a number of things.
- We couldn’t be seen.
- We had to head South.
- If we were discovered by the MP’s without boots, we would be court- marshaled.
The sun was setting so we figured out South, hiding and frozen with fear every time we heard a sound. Feet stinging, hungry, feeling cruddy we walked hid, walked hid. Looks like the MSR ahead (Main supply route) which would lead to EASCOM (Eighth Army Support Command) and our base. Our luck; here’s a cab. Luckily our documents weren’t stolen and I had MPC’s (military payment certificates, which is Army currency) hidden in my sock.
SAC Army base we yelled in unison. Since the driver was not responding Jim went into his Turkish soldier act. The Koreans were deathly afraid of the Turkish soldiers who all carried long knives. Jim is screaming gibberish and pounding the top of the taxi cab’s front seat. Yongsan, Yongsan reservation he yelled. The driver sped to the post but we had him leave us about 50 yards on the side. Were frightened again because if the MP’s see we have no boots we are in a heap of trouble.
When we got to the gate and are in for a bit of luck. As we approach and show our documents a Korean “Honey Bucket” truck (Human waste collection) is just passing. The MP’s were distracted by the noise and the smell of the human waste. (which was used to fertilize their crops). Koreans are not overly fond of dogs and one of my friends from the JAG corps, (Legal team), saved a dog from the Honey bucket brigade but unfortunately the smell never left the dog.
Anyway, we were saved, got back to the barracks and told our story. Carl (who was a Harvard trained lawyer) and knew everything laughed (one of the few times I had ever seen him laugh). Usually Carl had no common sense but this time he knew what the flags were about. No, we were not in North Korea. There is a small village nearby that is inhabited by a small Nationalist Chinese community. It had been Nationalist Chinese holiday! We didn’t know the difference between Communist Chinese or National Chinese flags. Shame on us. ”
By Bill Morgenstein
From my book: “The Crazy Life of a Kid From Brooklyn” (https://www.thecrazylifeofbill.com)